My friend Paul Bass, who has been covering Joe Lieberman for a very long time, has some thoughts on the Lieberman/Lamont race:
Lieberman understands how, in campaigns, you can make people forget all that. You can change the subject by making fun of your opponent for being rich. Then, with millions of dollars from wealthy donors, you can reinvent your record.
Watching Lieberman and Lamont these past few weeks, I had to wonder: Am I the one with amnesia?
So I went up to the attic and pulled out my Lieberman file, with clippings and documents collected from covering him during his three terms in Washington.
It was true. My memory was faulty. I had remembered that, out of the eye of voters back home, Lieberman developed working alliances with the most hypocritical and dangerous right-wingnuts like Ralph Reed and Charles Murray and Bill Bennett. But I had forgotten just how extensive a record he had accumulated.
* * *
Now it’s true that Lieberman earns high marks on Democratic interest group “report cards.” That’s because he plays a shell game in which liberal interest groups are complicit. He gets the “right” mark for voting against Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court nomination, for instance. But he gives the Bush administration the vote it needs to make Alito a judge, by voting to stop a filibuster.
Similarly, he held back on voting for Clarence Thomas’s nomination until the first Bush administration saw it had the votes. Then Lieberman could safely vote against Thomas and earn the “right” grade.
It’s fine for Lieberman to join Republicans in ideological arguments. He does that a lot for someone still calling himself a Democrat. And when he can publicly excoriate President Clinton for having sex with an intern – then hold back on President Bush’s immoral lying about Iraq and illegal spying on Americans – he steps over not just a party line, but an ethical line as well.
It’s also true that Lieberman has acknowledged some errors. He told me in past interviews that he was wrong to vote with Helms on the gay-bashing proposal. He said he erred in joining the Cheney group. But such after-the-fact admissions ring hollow when he continues to oppose gay marriage, or when he accuses critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq war of endangering national security.
More here. I saw Joe Lieberman give a talk awhile back, explaining how he was going to vote to confirm Torturin’ Al Gonzales because he believed in “giving people the benefit of the doubt.” While I’m not 100% convinced that Ned Lamont is God’s Gift to Democrats, I do believe I will take Joe’s advice and give Ned the benefit of the doubt.
(Incidentally, Paul is a veteran of New Haven altweeklies, and has taken that spirit to the web with the news site he runs, the New Haven Independent. Plenty on the Lieberman race and more there.)